As we enter week 5 (yes – I had to go back to my calendar and count) of our Covid-19 self-quarantine I find myself alternating between the comfort of my new routine and the uncertainty of not knowing when this will all be over. And for that matter, what “over” in this context means (How quickly will things return to some sense of pre-quarantine normalcy? Is that even possible at this point? What things from my new quarantine life will I miss? Will we be out and about too soon and have to shelter in home again as the virus spikes back up?). It’s a lot to take in.
In many respects I’ve come to at least understand, if not embrace, my new quarantine life. I like not commuting and am getting used to that. I like having our family around. Really, truly around since no one is going to sports practices, music lessons, art class, etc. We’re hanging out a lot more (apparently teenagers want to talk to their parents more when they’re stuck at home – I’m not complaining, it’s been great to have dinner together every night and then hang out for an hour and just talk). As someone who typically travels a lot, a long stretch at home, seeing my wife and family every day, sleeping in my own bed, and surrounded by my stuff (the longest period I’ve done that in as long as I can remember) is really nice. It’s been grounding in a way that’s been comforting and good.
But at the same time I also feel a sense of foreboding and disconnectedness. I don’t really know what’s going on in the outside world that much (aside from occasional trips to the grocery store and some drives with our “learning to drive” teenager around town, we’re not getting out at all). I’m worried about the economic consequences of our prolonged time at home is having on our country. I think a lot about those who are disadvantaged, who have no choice but to venture out to keep their jobs. And of those who have lost their jobs. We’ve been trying to help on those fronts as well (both with time – Greeley has been volunteering at the Boulder homeless shelter, for example; and with financial resources – especially targeted to local organizations helping feed and shelter those with the greatest need). But it can feel overwhelming at times. The Harvard Business Review had a great article on this: That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.
With the initial frenzy and adrenaline rush behind us, the term that keeps coming to my mind is “settling in”. The newness of being at home, the frenetic pace of the first few weeks of the pandemic, the quick and meaningful decisions that needed to be made, the novelty of a new “office” set-up, have all died down. I’ve been thinking a lot about what this means and how to best keep motivated as what had been a sprint settles in to something else.
I’ve recognized that I can’t keep sprinting. I’ve very much been in the mindset that I’ll do everything I can/need to do now and will figure out how to take a break later (spring break canceled wasn’t much of a bother with this mindset, nor were the long days or the working every day of the week). But I’m coming to realize (and share with the people I work with) that we need to settle in to something more manageable.
That’s not to say that there isn’t an incredible amount of work to do – there is. But settling in means figuring out a work pattern than provides some boundaries and balance. For those of us new to working at home those boundaries have been elusive (I’m speaking for myself here – I’ve found that hard). Stepping away for periods of time (I started by leaving my phone in my closet for the afternoon this past Sunday – a small but helpful step) is important. As is designing a work cadence that feels more manageable and less crisis/interruption driven. For companies, I think this starts at the top – CEOs recognizing that their employees are looking to them to model this behavior and help the organization as a whole settle into something more balanced and regular. For individuals, this looks like more planned days and likely more free blocks during the day to catch up and be pro-active vs re-active.
For all of us, I hope settling in means feeling a calmness about what we can control and what we can’t and focusing more of our time on the former and less time reacting to the latter. I hope you’re all staying safe.